Force India was expected to name its drivers for 2013 in early December but the decision has been delayed while team partners Vijay Mallya and Roy Subrata Sahara have been dealing other problems at home in India. It is assumed that Paul Di Resta will be staying on for a third season with the team and the talk is that the second seat will either go to Adrian Sutil or test driver Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman’s candidature has been linked to possible deals with Ferrari for engines in 2014, which is interesting given that the team’s alliance with Mercedes-Benz was largely responsible for di Resta’s presence in the team. If that alliance is being unstitched in the future, the Scotsman may need to start looking around for opportunities in 2014.
The team says that the choice of driver is not a question of money but it is hard to see why in that case it is taking so long for any decisions to be made. Clearly both Mallya and Sahara have their hands full in India. Sahara has been ordered to repay vast sums to investors, and he was required by the Supreme Court to pay $2 billion to the Securities and Exchange Board of India by the end of the first week of January. Reports in India say that this has not happened and that Sahara wants to go on arguing about the situation with the legislature. If he loses this argument the courts could seize his assets.
Mallya has been up to his neck in trouble with Kingfisher Airlines, which lost its flying licence over the New Year. There are now reports that the company’s lenders, who are owed something in the region of $1.4 billion, have had a meeting and decided that they will take legal action to recover their money as all other attempts have thus far failed. Mallya continues to talk about a possible rescue bid from Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airlines.
On paper, the team would appear to be a bit short of sponsorship as the primary sponsor in recent years has been Kingfisher Airlines and a big chunk of the budget has come from another Mallya company called United Spirits. However this has effectively been sold to Diageo and there have been no announcements from the British company about whether the F1 sponsorship will continue.
The key question is really whether the pair can find cash from other sources to avoid the F1 team getting into trouble. In the past the team has borrowed large sums but lenders seem to be thinner on the ground these days.
Despite all this the team seems to believe that all is well for the year ahead, which makes it rather curious that no decisions have been taken over drivers.